Surya Namaskara: 12-Step Salute to the Sun

The 12-step daily salute to the sun is one of the outstanding yoga exercises. Do it once or twice or a series you like when you get up in the morning to help relieve stiffness and invigorate the body. Multiple repetitions at night will help you to relax; insomniacs often find that six to 12 rounds help them fall asleep.

Salute to the Sun” or “Sun Salutation” (Surya Namaskara) is the primary exercise many yoga classes begin with the execution of a yoga session. This is not precisely an asana, but rather a series of smooth movements that include a number of different postures into one exercise. The Sun Salutation is designed to warm up the body for the postures that will follow during the Complete Yoga Session.

The Sun Salutation is composed of a number of movements performed in sequence. Stretching the body with movements to help and improve the circulation of blood so that your yoga practice will be even more beneficial. In performing the sequence pay attention to your breath. An inhalation or an exhalation must be in harmony with the movement.

1. Stand with your feet slightly apart, palms touching, in front of your chest, in a position known as namaskar (popularly known to as namaste, or “Prayer Position.”) , thumbs against your chest. Placing the hands in such a manner is a mudra, or yogic “seal”, sealing in the circuit of energy throughout your entire body, and showing your respect and attention to the practice that is to follow.

2. Inhale deeply while slowly raising your hands out to your sides and over your head, and bend back as far as possible, while tightening your buttocks. Hold for three seconds.

3. Slowly exhale and bend forward, arms out to the sides, keeping your knees straight, until your fingers touch the floor outside your feet. (If you can’t touch the floor, go as close as you can.) Keep your lower back and torso as straight and erect as possible, then fold forward, belly over the thighs.Bring your head in toward your knees. If the palms of your hands do not reach the floor with straight legs, bend your knees until your palms are firmly on the floor. If that is too challenging for you, then simply let your hands reach as close to the ground as possible.

4. Slowly inhale, bend your knees, and if your fingertips aren’t outside your feet on the floor, place them there. Slide your right foot back as far as you can go, with the right knee an inch or so off the floor, (a lunge position). Now look up as high as possible, arching your back. Your left foot is positioned between your two hands. It stays bent and forms a right angle to the floor with your left lower leg. Your right leg is in a lunge position in a strong stretch. As you breathe, press more deeply into your right hip to increase the benefits of the stretch.

5. Retain your breath as you lift up your left foot and leg and bring them back to form a parallel line with your right leg and foot, and with your weight supported on your palms and toes, straighten both legs so that your body forms a flat plane. Make sure your stomach is pulled in. Contract your abdomen to maintain your straight, active position—your entire body forms a line as straight as a plank from head to toe.

6. Slowly exhale, bend both knees to the floor, bend with your hips in the air, lower your chest and forehead to the floor. Your hands are placed with palms flat on the floor next to your shoulders.

7. Now inhale slowly as you gradually slide your chin, neck, and head forward and look up, bending your head back, then raising it, followed by your upper chest, then lower chest. Your lower body – from the navel down – should be on the floor, and your elbows should be slightly bent. This posture provides a strong backward bend, so
lift your chest, pull down and away with your shoulders, and arch your upper back as much
as you can to get the greatest stretch possible.Hold for three to five seconds

8. Exhale slowly as you curl your toes under and lift your buttocks up into the air and raise your hips until your feet and palms are flat on the floor and your arms and legs are straight in an inverted V position. Allow your feet to rotate back completely so that your toes are flexed and you are supported on the balls of your toes. Allow your head to hang between your elbows, your gaze directed up and back toward your navel.

9. Inhale slowly as you simultaneously lower your torso and lift and step your right foot forward, placing it between your two hands and bring your right foot forward as in position 4. The foot should be flat on the floor between your fingertips. The left leg should be almost straight behind you, with its knee slightly off the floor. Raise your head, look up, and arch your back.

10. Slowly exhale as you lift your left leg, bringing it forward so that your left foot is parallel to and touches your right foot. Straighten your legs and stand, trying to keep your fingertips on the floor, and try to touch your head to your knees as in position 3. Your hands are on the floor outside of your feet, fingertips in line with the toes,
at the front center of your yoga mat.

11. Slowly inhale, raise your arms out to the sides and up and stretch back as in position 2. Bring the palms of your hands together to touch above your head. Don’t forget to tighten your buttocks. Keep your head and neck in line with your arms to avoid any excessive stretch. Hold for three seconds.

12. Slowly exhale, lowering your arms to your sides. Relax. Repeat the series.